Livingston manager John McGlynn was left in a state of disbelief as his side crashed out of the Scottish Cup in a match they had threatened to overrun their lower league opponents Annan Athletic.
The Lions made the long trip to Galabank for Saturday’s third-round clash and were quick out the traps, gaining the early initiative through Keaghan Jacobs’ fine finish after just 13 minutes.
But Peter Weatherson’s leveller just seven minutes later simply knocked the stuffing out of a Livingston side that were unable to re-establish a foothold in a match they eventually surrendered 3-2.
“We’ve got to be mentally stronger that when we lose the first goal we don’t lose the way we’re playing beforehand,” a disappointed McGlynn stressed afterwards. “If we’d continued to play the way we had been I think we would have been okay.
“We had a great start – let’s put it that way. We were well on top and could easily have been two or three up by the time they scored their first goal. We lost our way after they equalised, which is really disappointing as we were so far on top. Losing one goal shouldn’t have really knocked us off our stride but it did. We should have been out of sight by half-time.”
Myles Hippolyte, handed a rare start by McGlynn, was played through on goal as early as the seventh minute from Jordan White’s flick-on, but the Englishman brought out a good stop from the hosts’ Alex Mitchell.
White himself was next to test the Annan goal unleashing a powerful drive from 30 yards which deflected just beyond Mitchell’s left-hand post.
But Keaghan Jacobs’ opener on the 13th minute mark was inevitable, the 25-year-old calmly placing a right-footed effort into the bottom corner following White’s knockdown to send the small band of visiting supporters into song and dance.
The home side were simply struggling to contain Livi’s intensity in the final third as Gary Glen then tested Mitchell, who could only palm the former Hearts striker’s shot into the path of goalscorer Keaghan Jacobs who prodded just wide of the gaping goal.
However, against the run of play, Simon Mensing, restored to the Livi starting XI for the first time in over six months after recovering from a serious knee injury, committed a foul 25 yards from goal and up stepped Weatherson to curl the resulting free-kick beyond Darren Jamieson to restore parity.
As McGlynn alluded to in the aftermath, Livi were then all at sea as the League Two side capitalised in the 41st minute when Weatherson got on the end of a Martin McNiff cross which was fumbled in at the near post by the normally reliable Jamieson.
Annan’s Stuart McColm’s cross-cum-shot almost caught out Jamieson early in the second-half as the goalkeeper was forced to palm the ball away from just under his crossbar.
Hippolyte thought he had headed the Championship outfit level when he latched onto a long clearance from Jamieson but referee Euan Anderson ruled the 19-year-old had come from an offside position – a decision McGlynn contested and rightly so.
“I’ve got to take his [Anderson] word for it,” the Lions boss said. “But it’s game-changing because within a couple of minutes Annan went 3-1 up when it could have two each – we could have had a massive lift and it could have been completely different so that decision, if it was incorrect, possibly cost us.”
Annan then compounded Livi’s misery moments later as McColm outpaced the Livi defence from a Weatherson knock on and the winger drove the ball under Jamieson.
Livi resorted to three at the back in chasing the game and substitute Danny Mullen did what he managed last week against Queen of the South and reduced the deficit with a close-range finish and, despite Livi peppering the Annan six-yard box with crosses in the dying minutes of the match, Glen going agonisingly close once again, the Borders side held on to seal their fourth-round spot.
Annan Athletic: Mitchell, Black, Chisholm, McNiff, Watson, Sloan, Flynn, Logan, Weatherson (Todd 81), Hopkirk, McColm. Subs: Murray, Brannan, Davidson, McStay, Omar, Wood.
Livingston: Jamieson, Sives, Talbot, Mensing (Mullen 64), Fordyce, Kyle Jacobs, Keaghan Jacobs (McKenna 64), O’Brien, Hippolyte (Robertson 73), White, Glen. Subs: Grant, Gallagher, Beaumont, Burchill.
Referee: Euan Anderson.